An ancient shirt, a ring, and a dagger. An ordinary young man in modern Istanbul. When tragedy unlocks his past, centuries collide, and Hakan's destiny is revealed. He is The Protector. Can he save Istanbul from the thousand-year-old Immortal? Only if he can assemble the ancient tools, find The Immortal, and balance the affections of two very different women.
•What did I think of The Protector, this very first Turkish Netflix Original?
•Would I love Cagatay Ulusoy's (Chah-tie Ooh-loo-soy) performance as much as I loved him in Icerde and Medcezir?
•Would Netflix maintain the elements of Turkish Dramas that endeared me to it in the first place, or would they 'ruin' it by Americanizing it?
I eagerly settled in on Saturday afternoon and clicked play to find out. Six hours later, after blowing through all ten episodes, here's my review of The Protector:
What I loved:
-Each episode hooked me in its opening scene.
-No episode opening credits AT ALL, so each episode opens with immersive action rather than repetitive credits and a worn out theme song.
-Episodes flew by. Each 35-45 min episode wrapped up with a satisfying sense of conclusion but dangled enough suspense to bait me into the next episode.
-No unnecessary filler scenes or subplots to bog it down, so the storyline progressed at a lively pace.
-Unique setting: The very Istanbul-ish and creative underground cistern home of Zeynep and her father.
-Solid performance by Cagatay. He's a talented actor with an endearing personality, and he played his part well. (More on Cagatay later.)
-Great performance by Hazar Ergüçlü (Zeynep, Hakan's appointed coach). Having seen her in Medcezir and Kuzey Guney, I enjoyed the vibrance and color she brought to Zeynep in this very different role.
-Great performance by 14 year old Helin Kandemir (Ceylan, a minor character). This girl caught my attention the first moment she appeared on screen. She has excellent stage presence and brought a refreshing energy to her scenes.
-The vibe between Cagatay and Hazar felt very genuine. They made a good team.
-Cool special effect how his shirt morphed into invisible body armor.
-The show sucked me in and engaged me despite that I'm generally not a fan of superhero dramas.
-Two more positive elements related to Netflix:
-First, the option to change Netflix's default of voiceover dubbing to the actor's Turkish voices with English subtitles. [Click on speech bubble on lower right of screen. Choose Turkish for audio and English for subtitles.]
-Second, kudos to Netflix as the producer for honoring the cast and crew by adhering to reasonable working hours in spite of filming in Turkey where film crews are accustomed to grueling 12-17 hour days, six days a week.
What I wasn't so fond of:
-Slowish first episode. Show didn't 'bolt out of the starting gate.' I was willing to stick with it as I'm accustomed to Turkish Dramas taking time to develop, but I hope lurkers 'checking out the new Turkish Drama genre' won't bale.
-Gratuitous bedroom scene in episode 1. Mild, but completely unnecessary. Smacked of typical American formulaic writing.
-Ditto for excessive cussing—especially in the first few episodes.
-Disappointing Romance: The romance between Hakan and Leyla was a 'love a first sight' with zero development of their relationship—no dates, no quality time, no shared interests, nothing. As a romance novelist, this is a particular peeve of mine.)
-The Hello, you're attractive, now let's rip each others clothes off scene also typical in American TV. In addition, there were no clues hinting at attraction, the sex was void of any relationship or romance, and there was no chemistry between the couple. (Maybe because there was no relationship!)
-Lack of depth in relationships in general. Deep, multi-layered, and often conflicting relationships is probably the chief characteristic that sucked me into Turkish Drama. If there had been more conflict between Hakan and Zeynep in the beginning and if they had been forced to rely on each other more, then their relationship could have been edgier and the sizzle we sensed between them would have felt more significant. In addition, something to bind Hakan and Leyla—perhaps a similar emotional wound—could have provided a point of commonality and a foundation for their relationship.
-More gore than necessary—infrequent, but excessive nonetheless.
-Restraint on Cagatay: I didn't feel that this script (and perhaps the directors) enabled him to showcase his skill as an actor or create a multi-faceted character. His characters in Medcezir, Icerde, and Delibal were more unique and defined. More opportunities for Cagatay to express emotional extremes—rage, fear, frustration, compassion, tenderness, etc.—would have made his character more multi-dimensional and added potency to the drama.
-Leyla was mostly 'just a pretty face.' No deep wound, history, or conflict to endear her to us.
-Unremarkable soundtrack. I didn't notice the music at all. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the incredible music by Toygar Isikli which can add a whole new dimension to a Turkish Drama. The soundtrack for Icerde was fantastic.
-A weak villain. We're told The Immortal is really evil—the instigator of earthquakes, famines, and the like. But we aren't shown any catastrophic deeds. He posed no imminent threat to Istanbul or the world. More attention was given to a tragedy in his life than his evil deeds, making it hard to hate him. His character lacked depth and color as well.
-Uneventful fight scenes. Hakan is a superhero, and superheroes should triumph in superhero style. Perhaps I was expecting something like the fight scenes in Icerde whose choreographer crafted innovative fight scenes that made them a talking point of the series.
My conclusion: Was The Protector worth watching?
Absolutely yes! It may seem that my criticisms outweighed my compliments, but the general premise, tight script, and talented actors made The Protector a very enjoyable series. And although it won't go down as one of my favorite Turkish Dramas, the fact that each episode was engaging enough to bait me through all ten episodes in one sitting in a genre outside my norm speaks for its entertainment value.
However, in the next Turkish Netflix Original, I would love to see a few script adjustments: First, a closer adherence to the Turkish Drama fundamentals of deep, multi-layered characters and relationships, and slow burn romance that makes the genre so engrossing. And while keeping the storyline free from subplots, I hope producers will be willing to step away from the clichéd American “formula” that includes quick, rumpus sex, and the token foul language injected to qualify the series for an MA rating.
Finally, a big thanks to Netflix for producing a series that features the talent of Turkish storytellers and actors, and for releasing The Protector worldwide simultaneously so ALL the world can enjoy Turkish Drama.
Looking forward to reviewing season 2 of The Protector and many more Turkish Dramas on Netflix!
Copyright @ 2018 Ginger Monette Article reprint policy
-For more about Cagatay Ulusoy in English visit CagatayUlusoyNorthAmerica.com.
-Watch an interview with the directors of The Protector. **Turn on the closed captions**
-Try another Turkish Drama on Netflix!
•Kurt Seyit ve Sura: Many consider this series their 'entry drug' into Turkish Drama and the lead actor the best they've ever seen. A Turkish lieutenant and the daughter of Russian nobles fight for their love against forces of family and social expectation and historical events. See my review here.
•Sadece Sen: Touching romance movie. An ex-boxer falls in love with a blind woman and starts to build a new life, but his violent past returns to endanger them both.